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58 article(s) translated from Japanese

Wheels

Japanese poet Takako Arai conjures an unvanquishable ghost, who literally left work undone. Video: Takako Arai and Jeffrey Angles read “Wheels” (credits below) A fire’s coming! It’ll be here soon! A female snake kept warning us For ages it lived in the storage above the closet We grew up hearing its voice Each time we laid out the bedding My sister and I could hardly stand it We’d lie anxiously in wait, temples pounding It’s coming! It’ll be...

The Far Shore

Translator’s Note: As everyone knows, the March 11, 2011, earthquake that shook northeastern Japan also released a devastating tsunami that devastated the northeastern Tōhoku coast of Japan and precipitated the worst nuclear meltdown since Chernobyl. By the time that the dust had cleared, the losses were staggering. A tally from the Japanese National Police Agency stated that 15,886 people had been killed, 6,148 people had been injured, and 2,620 people were still missing as of...

The Memory

After Félix Valloton's Le Ballon There is a reason for her beauty. She has a secret that she can tell nobody, and it is that secret which makes her beautiful. She has no mother. Her mother died when she was very young, and she was raised by her father. Her father now has a new family. He got married again the year she turned fifteen. She knew, too, that he had been seeing this other woman while her mother was still alive. She never once criticized him for it. Don't worry...

Fruit

This is an official report based on the firsthand accounts of interviewees A through Z. Each entry has been abstracted and the subjects’ names have been redacted. Various fruits appear in the report. Here, the term “various” is synonymous with “many kinds.” Examples are: apple; banana; blueberry; cherry; fig; grape; kiwi; lemon; lime; lychee; mango; melon; navel orange; papaya; peach; pear; pineapple; pomegranate; strawberry; sudachi; watermelon; and yuzu. In...

When My Wife Was a Shiitake

Omwet. No, no. Omelet. Omwet. Not omwet, omelet. Omwet. Omwet? What about this? Sweet. Sweet? And this? Green. Green, is it? Well, what about this? Clam. That’s right, clam. And this? Shiitako. Almost—shiitake. Shiitake. On a cold day seven years ago, just two days into his retirement, Taihei’s wife died.  When she still wasn’t up at noon, he’d gone to the bedroom to wake her, cracking a joke, is this how lazy you get when the head of the...

Glass

A pane of glass shatters. I open my bedroom window and look up and down the street. A man is running away. Under the kitchen table I find a rock the size of a baby’s fist. I push the larger fragments of glass into a pile by the wall with the toe of my slipper, then get a broom and sweep up the smaller shards. I don’t want to run the vacuum cleaner in the middle of the night, so I leave it at that and go back to bed. Did you see who it was? My wife asks, lying with her back to...

The Trapped Boy

Running in a daze through the city’s dreamlike darkness. I’m all alone. Gasping for air. And I can’t go home with my school uniform filthy like this. I’m soaked to the skin, my body is cold, but there’s an uncomfortable dull heat hanging around my neck. The late rainy season deluge pounds down on me. I wipe my face. I push my hair back again. Racked with unhappiness and thirsty for blood, like a beast with a splinter dug deep in its paw. My heart has bared a...

Stance Dots

The place had opened for business at eleven a.m. but no one showed up. The old man wasn’t surprised, though, since Thursdays were often like this. But when nine p.m. came and went and there were still no customers, he decided to close up, and switched off the wall lights. With no games being played, he could hear the cooling compressor of the Coke machine humming noisily. It was the kind of vending machine with glass bottles, the kind of old-fashioned dispenser his maintenance man had...

Telegraph Pole

Now was the time to leave. She could go anywhere, as long as there were streets. Just had to walk to get there. These feet would take her. Though they weren’t as good as they used to be. Oh Hagar, slave-girl of Sarai! Where have you come from, and where are you going? I am running from my mistress Sarai, she answered. This road was here before they paved it. The rain left it muddy, pockmarked by puddles. She had walked this street every day, ever since she was a girl. Quite a few...

Waymarkers

When the three days and nights for which it is said the dead return each year came around, the containers of light that it was the custom to hang as waymarkers were brought out from the morning room and, translucent like souls, swayingly gave off a similar amount of coolness. Those paleish objects, were they five or six at first, either way numbered in excess for the small house moved to after the death; but while the death was recent, so were the gifts, and rather than deliberate over...

Where Have All the Sundays Gone?

I was lying in bed when I learned of the novelist's death. Awaking from a long dream filled only with incoherent darkness, my mind was still a blur as I reached out for my iPhone next to the pillow to check the time. As my eyes rested on the little screen, I found the news in the Top Stories section. It was a single sentence made up of tiny characters. I understood the words but couldn't quite grasp the meaning. I tried saying aloud "Hmmm"—then again, "So he died." I felt...

Cavities and Kindness

“Here comes the air.” “Now water.” “Now I'm going to insert the cotton.” That's what my dentist, who looked like Misaki Ito, said. I looked up at the woman, in her late twenties, and her long, curling eyelashes, and wondered, “Did she get an eyelash perm?” A towel was spread over my fishnet stockings. I was leaning back, looking up. She blasted air into my mouth, washed it out with a small jet of water, and stuffed the space between...

Spirit Summoning, Part VI

The next time we met, Yoko pretended that the Shikoku conversation had never happened. Following her lead, I didn’t bring it up either. After the summoning job was done, Yoko turned to me. “I’m going to your house today. I promised your mother I would stop by.” So that was it. She’d obviously decided that it would be easier to convince my mother than it would be to try to change my mind. Mother greeted Yoko at the door and led her into the room with the...

Reunion

In provincial towns, the hotel staff usually slides the hometown paper under the door in the morning. Unfamiliar with local news, most guests from cities barely glance through the main sections. But when your business meeting has gone well, and you wake up invigorated after a pleasant night of drinking, it's a different story. Perhaps because you feel a certain fondness for your host town and begin to feel attached, you want to read the paper from cover to cover. That’s exactly...

Spirit Summoning, Part V

Yoko asked my name. Usually I’d stop and think about it, make a point of recalling the name. This time I decided not to. I didn’t think, didn’t search for the name. Didn’t try to respond. I wanted to see what would happen. Yoko grew annoyed as I just sat there. If I kept it up much longer it would kill the atmosphere of the summoning. Just as that thought crossed my mind, my mouth started to move. “Ito,” it said. “Ito? The spirit’s name is...

Spirit Summoning, Part IV

“You do want to go up on the roof, don’t you?” Emi hurried after me. I climbed the stairs and, copying Emi’s technique, unraveled the chain. When I opened the hatch, once again the sky stretched out as far as I could see. It seemed as though the school had been flung into the sky. I marched over to the wooden crates and Emi sat down across from me. She looked like she wanted to ask me something. “My mother seems to have taken a real liking to you. She talks...

Spirit Summoning, Part III

My mother’s always been selfish and immature. She could be frustrating and drive me crazy from time to time but even I knew that there’s no such thing as a “perfect parent.” In any case, she always managed to keep her behavior within forgivable limits. I didn’t start to think there was anything really strange about her until last autumn, when funny rumors began to spread through the neighborhood. They started when a neighbor’s cat was found floating in...

Spirit Summoning, Part II

My mother was sitting in front of the Buddhist altar as usual. She picked the habit up last winter and now spent most of each day there. “I’m home!” She turned, a vacant expression on her face. “You’re late. I was starting to get worried. What would I do if I lost you as well? I’d be all on my own.” “I was just talking with Yoko.” “Yuki, can you talk to Natsuki for me again next time? I’m taking all my medicine just like...

Spirit Summoning, Part I

How much longer until we got there? The road was ridiculously wide. Empty but for a thick carpet of weeds, the plains on either side stretched into the distance with not so much as a single house to be seen. I was starting to get worried. Could this really be the way to the client? For once Yoko was quiet as she drove. She was usually full of unwanted advice after our meetings, but not today. Today the car was filled with the low hum of the engine and an oppressive silence. Having said...

from “Face”

 1 “Nine hundred thousand?” Aiko leaned forward and blinked in disbelief. The doctor before her gave an offhanded nod. She felt as though she’d been conned. “But the other doctor I to spoke to said 250,000.” She stuck out her lip, dissatisfied. Dr. Arai smiled politely. The badge on his chest read "Director" in small print just below his name. At first, when she realized that she was consulting with the director of the clinic himself, Aiko felt...

My Wife and Me in March 2011

Someday, sometime in the distant future, I wonder how my wife and I will look back on the month of March 2011. Obviously we’ll remember it as the month of the massive earthquake, but I suspect we’ll also think of it as a period during which we fought day in and day out. Perhaps it will even turn out to have been the beginning of the end of our marriage. Of course, things might have started moving toward the end much earlier, and we—or at least I—had simply failed...

from “Breasts and Eggs”

I’ve long been aware of the many parallels between Mieko Kawakami’s home city of Osaka, Japan, and my own hometown, Manchester in the UK. The third largest cities in their respective countries, they were each central to the industrial revolution, and are still major industrial centers today. Tokyo is Japan’s capital, but Osaka dominates the country’s Western half. So Manchester, the biggest city of England’s North, is to London. The inhabitants of both cities...

from “Install”

I left school early that day and promptly became a truancy case. Conked out as soon as I got home and slept like the dead. I woke up in the evening after a bad dream, but struggled against a mild sleep paralysis for a long time first, so by the time I fully awoke my head was heavy and aching, as if I had a hangover. I sat up and peered out through my sweaty hair to find it was the precise moment when the sun was setting, glimmering and boiling hellishly. As it wavered and sank, it tinted...

That Morning, When It

Tokyo Metropolitan Highway No. 14 is less congested at 4 a.m. than it is during the day. And with fewer lights to get stuck behind at this hour, people tend to drive fast too. As I inhaled the smog-infected air, I debated which way to go after walking out of the building, then decided to go left, in the direction of Chōfu. It had been less than a year since I moved into his apartment, and I didn’t really know the area too well, but I figured if I followed this metro highway...

Kid Sister

. . . and so my timing was thrown off. And so a space opened in my emotions. I became proud because I was so happy, and then, at the exact moment I had wished would last forever, before I could even ask, in about a second or so, I dove into the sea, ahead of Hiro. If only I had held on to his hand and we had gone under at same time, we could easily have made our way through the most massive of waves. What a shame, when Hiro had held out his hand, to share the joy of the sea with me....

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